John's Journal
Sights (and Sounds) From Day One of State Action6/8/2010
The first sound I heard from the 2010 spring state tournaments was, fittingly, a loud cheer. It was a bit muffled, considering that it came from inside an inflatable tennis bubble while I was walking outside the bubble, but it was a wonderful sound nonetheless.

Today was day one of the Big Spring Swing, two weeks of state tournaments scattered around the Twin Cities and extending from Mankato and Jordan up to Becker. The cheer I heard came from the Class A boys’ tennis tourney at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis, where Breck was edging Rochester Lourdes 4-3 in a highly anticipated team quarterfinal.

(For photos and video from tennis and lacrosse, see the MSHSL Facebook page.)

The big news from the day was that one of the two bubbles at Reed-Sweatt was down, having deflated due to an electrical malfunction on Friday. The roof material was ripped as it fell and repairs could not be made in time for the first day of the tournament. We’ll see what the rest of the week brings; good weather could lead to outdoor tennis. Fingers are crossed.

With five courts in use instead of 10, Reed-Sweatt was a cramped facility. Bleachers were placed on either side of the five-court setup, so fans watching the matches in the middle had to strain just a bit to see everything. The schedule took a hit, too, but the tournament managers did a terrific job of keeping things moving.

At one point in the day, Luverne coach Greg Antoine was trying to solve a slight problem. He had a cooler filled with Gatorade and needed a place to stow it while the team went out to get some lunch between matches. MSHSL media steward Jil Fiemeyer of Wadena, who always has a smile on her face, showed him where to park it. The great thing about that cooler? The Gatorade was donated to the team by one of the local businesses in Luverne. Community spirit is alive and well.

There were no space issues during the 2A boys’ tournament at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center today. Baseline is pure state of the art, with plenty of room for spectators and outstanding views of the action.

What goes on behind the scenes at the tennis tournaments is interesting as well as inspiring. One of the very cool things about state tennis are the pre-match meetings. This morning, I walked out of the restroom at Reed-Sweatt and much to my surprise the hallway was packed with tennis players.

Because of the cramped conditions, Class A site manager Hal Miller of Alexandria was addressing the teams from Mound-Westonka and Thief River Falls in the hallway. Later in the day, I witnessed a similar meeting between Mounds View and Forest Lake in the 2A tourney at Baseline. This meeting was held in the spacious Baseline lounge, with comfortable chairs everywhere.

2A site manager Doug Peltier of Roseville quickly explained which matches would be held on which courts, and then the lineups were quietly announced. Peltier, for example, said, “The players at Number One singles are …” And coaches Mike Cartwright of Mounds View and Greg Patchin of Forest Lake introduced the players, who rose to shake hands with each other as well as the opposing coach.

After the meeting ended, the Forest Lake Rangers headed out to the courts. Back in the lounge, the Mounds View Mustangs gathered around Cartwright for a very quick pep talk, followed by the loudest sound the room heard all day: “1, 2, 3, Mustangs!”

AFTER MAKING THE 25-mile drive from the University of Minnesota to Chanhassen High School, the first sound I heard from the girls’ state lacrosse tournament was also muffled … because I was inside a porta-potty when Mounds View scored the first goal against Eden Prairie.

It was dinnertime, and the concession stand was out of Diet Mountain Dew; I chose a Diet Pepsi over a Diet Coke (DC is my official drink of the winter state tournaments). The people working in the concession stand apparently don’t have to be sport-specific, because I heard one lady say to another lady, “What’s the game that’s going on? Lacrosse?”

The best thing about Tuesday evening’s lacrosse action was the sky. There were a few darkish clouds, but the sun made several appearances after a day of soggy drops falling to the ground. We all felt like we were in a good spot, too, since the National Weather Service’s Chanhassen radar tower is only a couple hundred yards from the stadium at Chanhassen High School. If any trouble was afoot, you’d think we would be the first to know.

But thank goodness, the only thing close to a calamity on day one of the Big Spring Swing was a tennis bubble that wouldn’t behave. On the tennis court as well as the lacrosse field, the competition was spirited, the fans cheered for their boys and girls, and it was another wonderful day for high school activities in Minnesota.

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn


Get Your Week On: It's Tourney Time!6/7/2010
Buckle up, take a breath and pack a lunch, because this week is one of the most action-filled stretches of the year. From lacrosse to tennis to softball to track, the next few days will be a whirlwind of MSHSL spring state tournaments.

Here’s a brief primer of what’s on tap …

TUESDAY/ Boys’ tennis kicks off the week. Team quarterfinals begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday and will run through late afternoon. Class A teams compete at Read-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis and Class AA is held at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center. On Tuesday evening, the single-class girls’ lacrosse state semifinals will be held at Chanhassen High School, with Eden Prairie and Mounds View facing off at 6 p.m., followed by Blake vs. Lakeville North/South at 8 p.m.

WEDNESDAY/ Boys’ tennis and girls’ lacrosse are on tap. Team titles will be decided in tennis, with semifinals at 8 and 10 a.m. in both classes and the title matches scheduled for 4 p.m. In girls’ lacrosse at Chanhassen, the third-place game will begin at 6, followed by the title game at 8.

THURSDAY/ The pace quickens on this day, with three sports in play. The boys’ lacrosse semifinals will be held at Mounds View; the first game pits Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Hopkins, followed by Totino-Grace vs. Eagan. In boys’ tennis, first- and second-round matches will be held in singles and doubles. And in North Mankato, the three-class state softball tournament will get rolling with quarterfinal and semifinal games.

FRIDAY/ This is the busiest day of the high school sports year in Minnesota, with state champions decided in four sports. In boys’ tennis, singles and doubles title will be on the line, with all championship matches scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Softball championship games are scheduled for 1 p.m. (3A), 1:30 (A) and 2 p.m. (2A), boys’ lacrosse will hold its third-place (6 p.m.) and championship (8 p.m.) games at Mounds View, and the first day of the state track and field meet will take place at Hamline University in St. Paul.

SATURDAY/ The state track and field meet will close the week, followed by a short respite before the state golf and baseball tournaments are held from June15-19. The spring tournament series will close with a bang: three state championship baseball games held at Target Field, the new home of the Twins.

Many of these events will be webcast on 45.grandstadium.tv. And throughout the week, updates will posted on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to check out all of those sites to stay in the loop on all the tournament action.

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
See Video & Photos from 2A Section 6 Track Finals6/5/2010
Jump on over to the MSHSL Facebook page to see (and hear) sights and sounds from Friday’s Class 2A Section 6 track and field championships at Cooper High School.

It was another beautiful day, filled with strong performances. Among the Facebook postings are:

--Video of Hopkins freshman Taylor Anderson winning the 100 with the state’s fastest girls’ time this season.

--Video of Edina junior Devin Crawford-Tufts winning the boys’ 100; he has the best time in Minnesota in that event in 2010.

--Video of Benilde-St. Margaret’s junior high jumper Trevor Yedoni, who also has the best performance in the state in that event.

--Photos of the boys’ 110 and girls’ 100 hurdles.

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Monumental Facebook History Has Been Made!6/5/2010
Well, it's more of a neat plateau than earth-shaking history. But I am very proud to announce that more than 500 nice people who are interested -- if not downright passionate -- about high school activities have become friends of the MSHSL on Facebook.

That's an amazing number, considering that our Facebook page is barely two months old and has received very little publicity outside of our little neighborhood gathering spot here on John's Journal.

The next big goal is 1,000. I am setting a lofty target of reaching 1,000 before the end of the spring state tournaments. So share the news with your families and friends and tell them to jump on the bandwagon!

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

From Osseo to Kuwait: A Legend Says Farewell6/5/2010
Doug Anderson is a little worried about what will happen Tuesday night. The fact that he and his wife are pulling up stakes and moving halfway around the world later this summer isn’t what’s tugging at him right now; it’s Tuesday night’s postseason sports banquet at Osseo High School.

Anderson, who got the Osseo adapted sports programs off the ground in 1995 and has been coaching there ever since, saw his final competition at Saturday’s state adapted softball tournament at Coon Rapids. His CI (cognitively impaired) team qualified for state and finished the season with a 12-5 record. The Orioles lost to South Suburban 23-13 in Friday’s state quarterfinals and fell to Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee 11-6 Saturday in the consolation bracket.

In August Anderson and his wife Sheila will move to Kuwait to teach at a private school. Sheila, recently retired from Osseo High School, teaches English and Doug will teach physical education and work as the athletic director at the Universal American School in a suburb of Kuwait City.

That’s all to come, though. Tuesday night is the immediate challenge.

“Tuesday night will be kind of my final closure with the program,” Anderson said during Saturday’s state tourney. “I’m kind of a sap anyway, so I imagine there will be a few tears flowing.”

Osseo activities director Ray Kirch uses words like “selfless” and “legend” and “icon” to describe Anderson and what he has meant to the athletes at Osseo.

“Doug has done great things for our special needs kids for years,” Kirch said. “We’re going to miss him like crazy.”

Anderson knows that he will miss all the athletes he has coached, and that includes a wide range of ages. He holds alumni games every year, and at the alumni softball game last week he asked one of his former players how old he was.

“I said, ‘Kenny, how old are you now?’ He said, ‘35 on my next birthday.’ I have one seventh-grader on the team now; Kenny is 34 and Alex is 14. I said, ‘Kenny, you were done playing for me before he was even born.’ We had the oldest player in the program and the youngest player in the program. It was pretty cool.

“I look forward to those alumni games more than anything else because I get to see them all, everybody whose lives you’ve touched.”

It’s impossible to quantify how many lives Anderson and all the adaptive coaches in Minnesota have touched. Saturday’s softball tournament was rock-solid evidence of the value of adapted athletics. After Osseo’s PI (physically impaired) team won the consolation championship with a 10-0 victory over Wayzata/Minnetonka, Orioles coach Al Chuba spoke to the team in the Coon Rapids cafeteria.

Standing next to the trophy that the team was taking home, Chuba said to the athletes, parents, grandparents and siblings, “Enjoy this. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Everyone was beaming. There were no downcast faces at finishing fifth in an eight-team tournament. It was an absolutely joyful moment during a day filled with them.

“This is just so much fun, working with these kids,” said Anderson. “A lot of them, they accomplish so little but they try so hard. And that’s gratifying. This gives these kids, whether they’re physically impaired or cognitively impaired, the opportunity to be part of a high school activity and have a chance to letter, to earn the same trophies and the same medals that they see the hockey players and the basketball players get on TV. It’s a great program.

“I was a college athlete, I coached baseball in college and I coached high school sports. But working with these kids, they give you 100 percent all the time, whether it’s the first day of practice or the last game of the state tournament. They go hard and they give their best. The parents are great and they’re grateful for the program.”

Kirch said Kelli Waalk, one of Anderson’s assistant coaches, will take over for him when the new school year begins.

“It’s tough to replace a legend, a guy who’s been kind of an icon in our adapted programs, but she’ll be a great replacement,” Kirch said.

Anderson, 57, is taking a leave of absence from his job at Osseo in order to work in Kuwait. While he and Sheila were celebrating their 25th anniversary in Hawaii 10 years ago, they met a couple who were retired teachers but had been working at schools in exotic places.

“They were having the time of their life,” Doug said. “We thought, ‘Geez, it would be fun if we could do that when we get to that point in our life.’ I guess we’re at that point in our life. We’ll do two years there. If we like it we’ll do two more. The plan is that we’ll probably be gone for four years.”

The Andersons will depart for Kuwait in early August.

“For a couple of farm kids from west-central Minnesota, this is a pretty big adventure,” Doug Anderson said with a smile. “We’ve been thinking about it and talking about it for 10 years. When my wife knew she was going to retire, we started looking into it.”

They went to a job fair at the University of Northern Iowa in February, where the Kuwaiti connection began.

“We interviewed with this school and they made an offer we couldn’t refuse,” Doug said.

Everyone who knows the Andersons wishes them well on the next chapter in their lives.

“A lot of us wouldn’t have the guts to try something like that," Kirch said. "But Doug’s an adventuresome person and so is Sheila. We just hope they have a great experience. They’ll do wonderful things for those kids in Kuwait.”

But first, there’s the matter of Tuesday night’s banquet … and farewell party.

“I’m going to have a hole in my heart on this one,” Anderson said.

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn